Not On Our Watch


When we talk about “doing” missions, it’s easy to see this as an action with a beginning and end, a start and finish. But what if we talked less about doing missions and more about being missional? It’s not just something we do—it’s who we are. Living daily in the understanding that lost people matter to God and He wants them found is part of our identity as disciples.

Sometimes we focus on the important words of Jesus and overlook His actions. He often taught the “why,” but He lived the “how.” Take Luke 15:1–2 for example: “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear [Jesus]. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’”

Initially Jesus said nothing—it’s all about action. The religious leaders observed that Jesus “welcomes sinners and eats with them.” You can almost hear the disgust in their voices. But I love this quote. It speaks so much about the heart of Jesus. He welcomed people with love, acceptance, and respect, regardless of who they were. 

Jesus demonstrated how to live and who to minister to. When confronted, He gave them the “why.” He emphasized it in the form of the three famous “Parables of the Lost.”

Treasured by God

First, He told of a shepherd who left a flock of 99 sheep to go after one that was lost. The shepherd didn’t stop until he found his sheep. Second, He told of a woman who relentlessly searched for her lost coin.

Third, He told the parable of the lost or prodigal son. (See Luke 15:4, 8, and 11-20.) These are glorious images of how God views the lost. He wants them to return, He wants them found.

In all three of these parables there is one glaring similarity. When what is lost is found, there is a huge and extravagant celebration. The shepherd called his friends together and said, “rejoice with me I have found my lost sheep.” The woman reacted exactly the same way when her coin was found. And the father of the prodigal son adorned him with a robe, a ring, and a feast! (See Luke 15: 5-6, 9, and 22-24.)

These celebrations show us that lost people are treasured by God. Jesus sees lost people as cherished and valuable, and the Father desperately wants them back. This is how we should see people who don’t know Jesus.

“Follow Me”

At the same time, the Bible shows us that God wants to find the lost through us.

“And He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed Him” (Matthew 4:19–20, NASB).

Here Jesus led with the two most life changing words in history—“Follow me.” First and foremost, we are called to the person of Christ. But what follows these two words? “and I will make you fishers of men.” Here, in the same breath He called His disciples to follow Him and to join His mission. This invitation is the basis of our faith—yet we, the modern day disciples, have walked away from it.

The most undervalued word in this passage is “and.”  If you follow Jesus, you will make followers of Jesus. It’s not the words “or,” “maybe,” or “a few of you.” There should be no difference between following Jesus and intentionally helping others to follow Jesus.

From His first words to His disciples all the way to His last—“Go and make disciples of all nations”—Jesus consistently stressed the importance of mission.    

If we are not actively involved in helping people discover Jesus, what kind of disciples are we?  One of the greatest crimes of the modern church is that we have allowed people to believe they can truly be a disciple of Jesus without being actively involved in God’s effort to rescue lost people. A life devoted to Christ is a life devoted to reaching the lost.

Go After the Lost

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4).

Jesus’ audience knew that this flock is the shepherd’s everything—his income, his insurance, his retirement plan, his entire livelihood. To leave the 99 culturally seemed crazy. But that one lost sheep was worth any risk to the shepherd.

Rereading this passage, the words “go after” popped off the page at me. We serve a God who left behind heavenly comforts to come take on the feeble form of humanity so He could save us. A God who could have said, “Look what you got yourself into now. Good luck,” instead died on the cross in the greatest rescue effort the world has ever seen. He rose from the dead and is still pursuing us. He came after us! God deeply wants you to return to Him and go after the lost.

He is calling us all to be intentionally missional in all that we do. Do we view every day as an opportunity to go after lost people? Before we exit our homes, do we pray for the lost and ask God to use us to reach them? Are we individually and collectively asking, how can we go after the lost?  It’s what God has called us all to do, what He has always intended.   

Jesus said, “I came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

We can’t save the lost. Only Jesus can do that. But as imitators of Christ we can seek out the lost and introduce them to the One who can save them. When we become missional, it aligns our hearts with the heart of God. It changes us—our purpose, our perspective, and our attitudes. Most importantly we become obedient in what God has asked us to do.

It doesn’t always have to be a massive undertaking. It can be as simple as going to the store, playground, gym, or pool. All of this can be missional if you are intentional in how you do it. What we see as mundane, God intends for mission. It can be as simple as, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

People often must encounter the people of God before they can encounter the person of God. They must belong before they can believe.

In the parable of the lost coin, we get a sense of urgency from Jesus. He described the woman as “lighting a lamp, sweeping the house, and searching carefully until she finds it.” This is not something that can be put off until tomorrow. Sound the alarm. Time is of the essence.

Alliance founder A. B. Simpson said, “[Missions] is not merely an opportunity, but an emergency.”

We need disciples who look at nations without gospel access and say, “Not on my watch.” We need churches who look at the lost in their communities and say, “Not on our watch.” God’s heart breaks for the lost people of the world. Does yours?

A lot of us believe in Jesus. But let me ask you—do you believe Jesus? When Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6), do you believe Him? If you do, then go after the lost.

We are part of something significant, lasting, and monumental—the Kingdom of God. It is an increasingly dangerous time to be a follower of Christ in this world. “For such a time as this” we were created, called, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. This is not a human endeavor. This is not the goal of any one church or organization. This is the mission of God Himself.

The question is not “Is God calling you?” The better question is “How will you respond to the call?”

2 responses to Not On Our Watch

  1. Excellent Article, Dan, and full of insight….I agree, not a question of the calling, only a question of the response…

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